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Publisher's Summary

When Arlene Fleet heads up north for college, she makes three promises to God: She will stop fornicating with every boy who crosses her path; never tell another lie; and never, ever go back to the "fourth rack of hell", her hometown of Possett, Alabama. All she wants from Him is one little miracle: make sure the body is never found.

Ten years later, God has broken His end of the deal. Alabama has landed on Arlene's Chicago doorstep in the form of her high school archenemy, a young woman who wants to find the golden-haired football hero who disappeared during their senior year.

To make matters worse, Arlene's African-American boyfriend, Burr, has given her an ultimatum; introduce him to her lily-white family or he's gone. Arlene would rather burn up in a fire than let him meet her steel magnolia Aunt Florence; her eccentric, half-mad Mama; her sweet-as-pecan-pie Cousin Clarice; and all the rest of her deeply racist kith and kin.

But the fickle finger of fate is pointing her south. All too soon she and Burr are on their way to confront Arlene's redneck roots, the secret she ran from, and the crime that stole her peace of mind. Back in the small town of her girlhood, Arlene's demons are closing in, and after a decade of running away, Arlene must face them all. Yet while the truth threatens to destroy the life she has built for herself, it just may open her eyes to a love powerful enough to revise her past and alter her future.

Crackling with humor, defiantly endearing characters, and plot twists that will astonish even the most jaded reader, Gods in Alabama will send you careening from tears to laughter and back. Most of all, it brings a unique, rough-around-the-edges heroine to life and makes her a permanent part of your own.

©2005 Joshilyn Jackson (P)2005 Time Warner AudioBooks

Critic Reviews

"Cleverly disguised as a leisurely paced southern novel, this debut rockets to the end, even as the plot turns back on itself, surprising characters and readers alike. Book clubs will enjoy this saucy tale, as will fans of southern fiction with a twist." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Jennifer
  • austin, TX, United States
  • 11-27-12

Great story, writing, and narration bad production

This was an extremely well written book. First, the story itself is excellent. The characters are complex and funny. They manage to be both totally messed up and entirely relatable. The book is actually pretty dark, with some truely disturbing scenes, but still a laugh out loud funny romp through the perspective of a troubled, likable, wicked, redeemable heroine. They are all- especially the protagonist- deeply flawed, and all the more likable for it. In the end, they are redeemable, despite the insanely messed up things they have done. Even the worst among them- the villan, as it were- is not so straightforwardly bad as all that, though he is plenty bad enough.
I am pretty solidly agnostic and a true apostate. I don't usually like books with heavy religious themes or characters (they tend to be preachy and have 'messages' you are supposed to learn from). For these characters, religion is woven into the fabric of who they are. I didn't find it in any way intrusive. It just is part of the characters. It's important to the story but it's not Christian fiction by any means, and, for me, I really found myself appriciating the approach to religion by flawed characters who do care about their religion, but except for "the Baptist Ladies Auxiliary for plaguing your children to death in the name of the Lord", they mostly approach it with genuine caring without sounding too terribly righteous or hypocritical- a heavy task for the kind of truely fantastic sinners most everybody in the book is.
The writing is great. The author has a beautiful way with words. You can see Alabama. You can see the development of each person, the flashbacks drawn carefully to move you perfectly through this story. All throughout, you see everyone complexly and richly woven, the people and the places.
The narration was also fabulous. I usually dislike southern accents narrated. Too often they sound horribly fake or wildly overblown. This narrator sounded like she was from Alabama (I say without any idea where she might actually be from). She caught the dry tones of the humor and the truely deep sadness and the moments of frozen emptiness. She was great.
So my major criticism of this book was the audio production. The thing is this: if I want music to cue me that this moment is supposed to be suspensful/creepy/heart-warming/dramatic, I will watch T.V. If my books need the music to cue me into the mood of a scene, they are too badly written to read. This book was not badly written. We all get when it's suspensful/creepy/heart-warming/dramatic. That is what a good author does. So all the random cuts of frankly inexplicable music did was distract me from an otherwise excellent audio book.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Good Story!

I downloaded this on a whim and was so glad I did. I loved the Southern characters, the story, as well as the narration. After I finished it I had to wait a day or so before starting another book because the story kept replaying in my mind. It's not classic literature but it's a great read for summer vacation.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Nicole
  • Yonkers, NY, USA
  • 05-02-05

I couldn't turn it off!

I lose interest easily with many audio books but I could not turn this one off. The story is so detailed that you feel like you are sitting on a porch swing watching it unfold. While the narrator's voice is charismatic and lovely to me, listen to the sample first if you have a hard time with southern accents.

27 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

NOT Chick Lit

I am a heterosexual male and I enjoyed this book greatly. Many times books of this genre are considered to be Chick Lit. I submit that this is just great writing.
I am now listening to Jackson's other book and and her writing is destined to be remembered along with the likes of Carson McCullers & Harper Lee. The South is not just a bunch of hicks and rednecks thought even they have real substance as Jackson shows. Everyone has an Aunt Flo. I recommend this highly

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Gods in Alabama

Wow! Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. This was a story about a woman trying her best to keep a promise she made to God when she was back in High School. Great storyline and suspense. Amazing ending. I thought it completely believable. The narration was outstanding throughout. The lady had to do a big black man from up north to all sorts from backwoods Alabama. I will purchase this author's next work for sure.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Janice
  • Sugar Land, TX, United States
  • 11-17-10

True Southern Voice

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was in turns hilarious and heartbreaking with a resolution to the mystery that I did not foresee, but found believable. I loved the quirky but lovable family and recognized characters known from my own childhood. Another reviewer was concerned about the frank sexuality that was included, but I was not offended as I did not find it gratuitous. And thanks to the Gods of Alabama for the authentic southern voice of the reader. It was a sweet sound from my own youth. Highly recommended.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Patti
  • Chittenango, NY, United States
  • 11-27-13

A Joy

This was definitey a delight to listen to. There is a certain amount of work to be done in the beginning to figure out what is happenng. Crazy family members and prejudice are put right out there at the start. Then there are scenes that flashback in time. As all the major characters are introduced, imperfection in each are revealed. And therein lies the wonder of this book. No family is perfect, no person goes through life without some regrets. Yet this one ultiately survives the truth and reality of it all. But you don't find that out until the surprising, bitter end of the book. I couldn't wait to get there and then was very sad when I did. There is a wonderful love story, a murder mystery, and the quirks of family (this one happens to be southern) all rolled into one book. Get it. Listen. And sit back to enjoy one hell of a roller coaster ride!!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Barbara
  • Marietta, GA, United States
  • 09-25-05

High humor and Not Just Chick Lit

I purchased this book only because it was written by a friend-of-a-friend, and I did so reluctantly. I generally loathe popular female fiction, and have been sorry for every one of Oprah's picks that I've choked down. But this first novel absolutely enthralled me. The humor was arch and pointed, sophisticated and dark, the story exciting, horrifying and told with complicated intrigue, and the character development was as rich and compassionate as anything by Carson McCullers or William Golding. This is a real, honest-to-god piece of literature, and I look forward to anything Ms. Jackson delivers in the future.

At first I was uncertain about Catherine Taber's narration, but her somewhat blase delivery and softened southern inflection rang true to the character. The only truly unfortunate aspect of the Audible version is the utterly inappropriate music added to the spoken words; it's distracting and poorly chosen. But this is a very slight minus in a book filled with pluses.

This is a book which is not only for southerners, although it's true to the educated, southern-escapee mindset. It rests somewhere between "Bastard out of Carolina" and "Crazy in Alabama" without owing any debt to either of those great works. It's probably a better book for women - ALL women - but I'm sure there are men who would appreciate it. I've ordered two copies in hardcover: one for my mother and one for my daughter.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Haley
  • Ballwin, MO, USA
  • 06-04-05

Excellent book

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story, the characters, the descriptive language and the narrator were wonderful. I looked forward to every chance I had to listen to it and now I look forward to Joshilyn Jackson's next book!

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Not exactly southern lit

Let me say first that I enjoyed this book. Then I'll say that I nearly stopped listening at a couple of points in the story. The added music was jarring, and annoying, but I can get past that. I nearly stopped listening because of some of the cliches that always seem to be in southern literature - the crazy relative, the deep, dark secrets, the 'steel magnolia' woman, etc. I kept listening to find out the solutions some of the mysteries that kept popping up. Then I found myself laughing out loud, and realizing that this was definitely NOT typical southern lit and I was enjoying listening! Lots of twists and turns, and an unusual ending. Well-narrated, without over the top accents - as a southern woman living up north for nearly 30 years, I hate hearing that! I will look for more from this author.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Antonia
  • 05-19-17

Secrets in Alabama

What did you like best about this story?

To my mind this has the makings of a modern classic. Both human nature and southern culture are looked at deeply critically and with love. It's well narrated with an unforced southern accent that helped me get caught up in the plot. This is a story of surprises, secrets wrapped in secrets, deep prejudices, complex characters and steel magnolias. I found it in turns funny and moving, haunting, romantic and wise. It will stay with me.